The latest twist in British boxing’s most engrossing saga was revealed by George Groves on Tuesday – unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to bring us any closer to the rematch an entire nation wants to see.
To backtrack: IBF and WBA super-middleweight champion Carl Froch signed to defend his belts against then-Matchroom stablemate and compatriot Groves in a November fight he was very vocally treating as an easy stepping stone on his way to seeking a rematch with Andre Ward.
Despite belittling Groves at every turn before, during and after confirmation of the fight (and the challenger had plenty of derogatory comments of his own for ‘The Cobra’), it was not the gulf in class that Froch, and many fans, thought it would be.
Despite Froch entering the ring to cheers and the young upstart to a chorus of boos, a first-round knockdown by Groves on the champ had many questioning their pre-fight predictions.
And throughout the first six rounds, the two engaged in a thrilling war, one which ultimate won a host of domestic year-end awards – but Groves remained in the ascendency for all six of those rounds, especially round six itself.
Ever-steely, Froch caught his second wind from there and began to put Groves under serious pressure as the atmosphere at the Manchester Arena continued to heat up.
Froch’s best spell came in round nine – a spell which seemed destined to get him a knockdown or a standing count of his own – but instead, referee Howard Foster stopped the contest outright and awarded the battle to the champ.
While it is a strong assumption that Froch, who has a reputation of coming to life in later rounds after over a decade in the ring against the toughest opponents, would have eventually earned the win even if Groves was allowed to continue, it appeared at the time that reputations had indeed come into Mr. Foster’s judgment.
After all, in rounds one and six, the official allowed Froch the chance to try and battle back, and after being put through hell in the sixth, Froch did just that.
The relatively-unproven Groves is no doubt a tough boxer – just watch his war with James DeGale from 2011 – but apparently not tough enough in Foster's eyes to suggest he could weather the torrent of abuse and go on to take it on points, or better.
No matter what would have happened (and we will now never know), Foster was wrong to be so inconsistent in determining when each fighter had ‘had enough’. And the IBF agreed.
The IBF have ruled that they want an ‘immediate rematch’ to be agreed upon, one which promoter Eddie Hearn feels could sell out a stadium as big as Wembley.
Groves turned down an initial negotiation for a second fight as he felt his end of the purse was derisory, but the IBF followed up by determining that a 15% cut for the challenger is fair.
With the status of a possible rematch up in the air, Groves has now taken action to try and have the first bout’s result stricken from the record, based on Mr. Foster’s inconsistency as to when he did and did not choose to step in and stop the fight.
Yes, I have written to the BBBoC for the Froch to be deemed a no contest due to Howard Fosters actions. He incorrectly ended the fight.
— George Groves (@StGeorgeGroves) February 4, 2014
Though the British Boxing Board of Control are unlikely to grant his wish, if the fight is turned into a ‘no contest’ it would restore Groves as an unbeaten professional boxer, and remove Froch’s ability to use the ‘I have beaten him, there’s nothing to prove’ argument.
A 'no contest' is different to a 'draw' in boxing in that the fight does not end up remaining on either competitor's record. A draw is a contest which ended even. A no contest is one which, technically, didn't properly take place at all.
(Though, admittedly, that argument holds little water with a fighter who pursued a second chance against Mikkel Kessler and now Ward so tenaciously – Kessler could easily have taken the same route)
Regardless of what happens in this latest wrangle, it isn’t the outcome the fans want. Only if the two finally agree on a deal to battle again in 2014 will everybody truly be satisfied.
Until then, the Froch-Groves grudge is only gaining extra unpleasantness in a scenario which can only be resolved by an actual fight.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe